How big is the Texas job opening? A fourth head coach just agreed to a new contract, basically, in response to being connected to it.
Florida State announced Tuesday that coach Jimbo Fisher has signed a new five-year, $21 million contract to be Florida State's head coach through the 2018 season, per ESPN.com's Joe Schad. Gene Williams of Warchant.com first reported the news.
"We are extremely pleased with the direction of our program and believe that this new contract will assure that Coach Fisher is in place to lead the Seminoles for a long time to come," Athletic Director Stan Wilcox said in a statement. "Coach Fisher enjoys the full support of the leadership of the university and we look forward to the continued success of our football program on the field and in the classroom."
Fisher's current salary (before the extension) is $2.75 million, which ranked 21st in the country, per USA Today. Once the extension kicks in, he'll become one of the highest-paid coaches in all of college football.
Fisher's contract may temper rumors connecting him to Texas, but they won't outright kill them. Over the weekend, The Dallas Morning News named Fisher as one of four coaches Texas athletic director Steve Patterson is focusing on to succeed Mack Brown. The other three were Briles, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and Louisville’s Charlie Strong.
Including Fisher's name in the conversation makes sense; he has the Seminoles playing for a BCS National Championship against Auburn on Jan. 6.
Fisher's new contract doesn't change the fact that it would behoove Texas to call him and gauge his interest. Aiming high should be encouraged when making an investment as big as finding a new head coach. And if Texas has to pay an enormous buyout along the way, it will. As Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman tweets, the process isn't really over until it's over:
ESPN's Schad echoed that sentiment, as a source told him that the new deal "does not eliminate Fisher from contention for any other job openings, including Texas, which is being very deliberate and is willing to wait to speak with anyone it wants to."
Does that mean Fisher is Austin-bound? Not in the slightest. With the roster he has now and the recruiting efforts being put in, he has what looks like a machine in Tallahassee capable of competing for national championships for years to come.
That's going to make Fisher a target of coaching searches. While Seminole fans may never fully breathe easy because of it, having a spotlight on your head coach is the biggest compliment a program can get.
The best Florida State can do—the best any program can do—is try to make its in-demand coach happy. Fisher's new deal is reportedly "incentive laden," and Bud Elliot of Tomahawk Nation reports that Fisher's assistants will receive more money:
Source tells me hangup with contract Jimbo Fisher just signed with FSU was more money for his staff. Given timing, looks like he got it.— TomahawkNation.com (@TomahawkNation) December 31, 2013
Ponying up for assistants is crucial, especially considering Fisher had to replace seven of them last offseason. A new coaching staff could have meant a dropoff for Florida State. Instead, the Seminoles had their best season since 1999 when they beat Virginia Tech for the BCS title.
Also consider Bret Bielema's move from Wisconsin to Arkansas a year ago, one that could have appeared lateral from the outside in. Yet, Bielema was losing assistants more often than he would have liked in Madison. In a longform feature from Grantland, Bielema explained that the inability to properly pay those assistants was the reason behind the turnover:
Typically, they also offered promotions. Position coaches became coordinators. Coordinators became head coaches. Some jumped to the NFL. "You want your assistants to move up," Bielema says. "But you want it to be a hard decision. You want them to only be willing to leave if they're walking into a dream situation. You don't want money to ever be a factor." In his last three years in Madison, Bielema lost 12 assistants. Every winter, he spun it to the media as a positive. But every spring, he wondered how his new staff would jell.
While it's impossible to determine what motivates Fisher, it's clear that Florida State is paying him and his staff for results—with a little bit of fear of losing them mixed in. Fisher, Briles, Saban and Malzahn are coaches with different styles, but they have one thing in common: They're getting the resources and institutional support needed to win.
In-demand coaches like Fisher can jockey for more money any way they want, whether it's for them, assistants or facilities—and it doesn't even mean they'll stay at their current job.
Hypothetically, say Fisher goes to Texas and fails miserably. It's Texas that will have footed the gigantic bill for that experiment. The same thing goes if Fisher suddenly, and inexplicably, stumbles at Florida State.
The best example of coaches benefiting from the frenzy of the moment is Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, who signed a lucrative $39 million deal after the 2009 season when he took the Hawkeyes to the Orange Bowl. The real kicker is Ferentz's buyout, which is 75 percent of his remaining salary.
If Iowa is ever unsatisfied with Ferentz, and his 27-23 record since '09 would certainly warrant that sentiment, it's basically stuck with him.
Not that Fisher's situation is like Ferentz's, but it's a cautionary tale nonetheless.
There are examples of both success and failure, but if a coach is sought after, he possesses the power to get what he wants. Fisher is only the latest example.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. You can follow him on Twitter @BenKercheval.